Gnostic Countercultures: Terror and Intrigue
March 26-28, 2015, Kyle Morrow Room, Fondren Library, Rice University
Keynote Speaker: Victoria Nelson, author of The Secret Lives of Puppets (Harvard University Press 2002)
The Gnostic is an elusive figure, escaping our borders, pushing our limits, reshaping us, with every act of transgression. Why does the Gnostic at once intrigue and terrify? What is it about the Gnostic that opens us up to a deviance so subversive that it reverses and redefines whatever it contacts? What is it about the Gnostic that constructs new worlds whose brilliance exposes the pallor of our existence? What is it about the Gnostic that fuels the courage to create something better than what tradition has left us? What is it about the Gnostic that pulls knowledge in, only to generate new knowledge so overwhelming in its experience that the depths of humanity are thought to be penetrated and healed?
Members of this congress will explore the Gnostic in Western culture from the ancient world to the modern New Age, tracing the emergence, persistence, and disappearance of metaphysical religious currents that are perceived to be countercultural, inverted, transgressive and/or subversive in their relationship to normative religion and their claim to knowledge.
The main purpose of this interdisciplinary conference is to unlock the Gnostic from its cage in the ancient world and to challenge the prevailing academic opinion that the Gnostic is a useless category because it reifies as heretics people who were simply “alternative” devout Christians.
Photos courtesy of Benjamin Brochstein